19.04.2009 32 °C
Vanuatu is, according to the UN, one of the least developed coutries in the world. Still there is very little poverty, and one of the places I've felt most safe. The soil is rich, and the islands have enough rain to give a good harvest every year.
The ni-Vanuatu are some of the friendliest, nicest people I have ever met. Even in Port Vila, the capital, people will say hello to you on the streets.
I have travelled to some of the smaller islands; Malakula, Pentecost and Ambrym. If you fly it is easy to get around. Air Vanuatus time tables might not be followed strictly, but the airline can get you almost everywhere in the arcipelago. The other option is cargo ship. Back from Ambrym I took the "Tina I", wich carried mostly kavaroot, and about 30 passengers. We sat or tried to sleep on wooden benches on a covered deck. After a while I realised what could happen if the 200 kilos unsecured sacks started moving...but 16 hours after leaving Ranon on Ambrym we all left the ship in Port Vila.
Kastom is importante everywhere on Vanuatu. The villages is headed by a chief. Some places the son of the chief will take over when the chief gets too old. But most villages has a system with grade taking, where you have to have a high grade to become chief. To take a grade to have to show that you can provide enough pigs for the grade taking ceremony. Pigs with tusks are worth more, and with double curled tusks even more.
In Malakula I trekked up to Veneningi Boas village, 4 hours from the coast. They had no electricity, and no road. The night I stayed there I was the only tourist in the village. On arrival my guide and me where served kava, and chief Kalove gave us the hut of his son to sleep in. I was taken to his sacred house and the place they held their seremonies.
Pentecost has a unic manhood test, the Naghol. It is a form of land diving, and it was here the bungee jumpers in New Zealand got the idea. Boys and men climb a 12-14 meter high tower, attach lianes to their feet, and jump. It is really a spectacular sight. It takes place in april and may, when they plant the yam. They land on soil, and it is supposed to help bring a good crop.
Even if the population of Vanuatu is only 200 000 people, they have more than 100 languages. Most ni-Vanuatu speak 4-5 languages or more, and the chief in one of the villages I vistited, dressed in a penis wrapper, switched between his local language, french and english. The national language is bislama, a form of pidgin english. I guess you manage to translate this:"Sori pio iklos tudei".
I asked a couple of ni-Vanuatu that had been abroad; to Berlin, Sydney and Melbourne, what they thought of it. Tessi said it was strange that people in Melbourne was so busy, and Freddy thought is was strange that people had to beg on the streets in Sydney. I could't agree more.